A Thunder Matt Movie Minute: The Psycho Sequels

November 21, 2007 | Comments (0) | by Governor X

The DVD three pack is one of mankind’s greatest inventions. I firmly believe it will go down in history with sliced bread, the cotton gin, and the atomic bomb. While at a DVD store that shall remain nameless, I stumbled across a real gem: a three pack of the Psycho sequels for $12. Trooper that I am, I watched them all so I could tell you about them.

Psycho II (1983) - Twenty two years after being locked in an asylum for murdering people as Mother, Norman Bates is free and heading back to the motel. Lila Loomis (Vera Miles reprises her role from the original) isn’t too happy about it since her sister was among those Norman murdered. The hospital sets Norman up with a job at a local diner (why I don’t know…he owns a motel) where he meets a young girl (Jennifer Tilly’s ugly sister Meg) and strikes up an awkward friendship. Her name is Mary Samuels, which should set off alarm bells with anyone anal enough to remember the alias Janet Leigh used in the original.

By some cosmic happenstance, Mary ends up living in the house with Norman. Then the murders start again. The sheriff starts nosing around, but seems pretty convinced Norman has nothing to do with them this time. One of the first to go is Mr. Toomey, played ably and sleazily by Dennis Franz, who Norman fired as motel manager after discovering he was running what Norman refers to as “an adult motel”. The film is probably worth watching just to see how awful and over the top Franz is in the role.

Well, events unfold and the bodies pile up. Its actually not Norman killing people believe it or not. You can check out the film to see “whodunnit”. The end reveals an interesting twist though. An old lady who worked with Norman at the diner comes to chat with him and tells him she’s Norman’s REAL mother. It seems she got pregnant, but let her sister raise Norman when she got carted away to the nuthouse. Unhappy with the concept of a living Mother, Norman bashes her over the head with a shovel, killing her.

The film is tense and interesting, but rife with bad acting and corny dialogue. Three stuffed birds out of five.

Psycho III (1986) - The stuffed corpse of Mother returns and Anthony Perkins takes over as director in the third installment of the Psycho series. A young suicidal nun and a dirt bag musician end up at the motel. The dirt bag gets hired as Norman’s assistant and the suicidal nun moves in to cabin one and ends up as Norman’s love interest.

Mother doesn’t like this one bit and instructs Norman to start killing again. One by one the pretty young girls coming by the motel get slaughtered and conveniently, Norman always has an alibi, false or not.

While all this is going on, a nosey ass reporter is snooping around. She knows Norman’s backstory and thinks he may be behind the disappearance of the old lady from the diner. She tells both of Norman’s young guests in time and the dirt bag shares her suspicions. He manages to steal Mother and leaves Norman a note from her. Confused and excited, Norman heads to the cabin where “Mother” said to meet him. Well, you can imagine what happens when Norman finds the dirt bag with his beloved Mother.

Nosey reporter finds herself in the old Bates’ house being stalked by Norman. It seems she’s managed to dig up quite a bit of dirt. The old lady from the diner was lying about being Norman’s mother! She was actually Norman’s aunt and killed his father out of jealousy. Norman, hearing all this and haunted by the latest tragedy (watch and see what it is), finally snaps and instead of butchering the reporter, he starts stabbing Mother’s stuffed corpse. The police come to haul Norman off.

Outside of Perkins, Psycho III is hamstrung by a pretty bad cast. He is SO good as Norman Bates though you don’t notice after awhile. For the first time, the day to day insanity of Norman’s life is on display for all of us to see and it makes Psycho III the best of the sequels. Three and a half stuffed birds out of five.

Psycho IV (1990) - Falling in the “they should have left well enough alone” category, Psycho IV is told half in flashbacks of Norman’s first murders, including the murder of Mother that started it all. Norman, only a few years removed from the last film, is out of the asylum again and calls into a radio show hosted by the always weird CCH Pounder. She’s discussing boys who murder their mothers, and this mysterious caller “Ed” seems to know a lot about it. As Pounder and the psychiatrist she booked as a guest talk to Ed, they realize its Norman Bates. They’re worried though because he’s said he has to kill again.

It seems Norman has a wife now and feels he has to kill her. Its not Mother this time, its all him. You see, she’s gotten pregnant and he wants the line of Bates’ insanity to end with him. Pounder fails to talk him off the ledge and he tells his wife to meet him at the old Bates house for a big surprise…

But I digress. As I said, half the movie consists of flashbacks of his first murders. We see him kill a young girl who wants to have sex with him, and then an old cougar woman who wants to have sex with him. For a creepy ass 15 year old who never speaks, he seems to have a lot of game. Mother (already dead at this point) won’t have any of those “filthy girls” around her son though. The final flashback we see is when Norman kills his mother and her boyfriend. As you will remember, he knocks them off with strychnine.

Perkins, as always, is solid as Bates and in general the acting is better than the other two, but this film has too many holes in it. For one, if he spent 22 years in the loony bin the first time, how did he get out again in only a couple years? Second, things in Psycho IV contradict what we’ve learned in the first three films. In III, we learned that Mother’s sister killed Norman’s father out of jealousy. Here we’re told he died from bee stings. In the original, the old sheriff’s wife says Norman found the bodies of his mother and her boyfriend together in bed. Here, after murdering them, he drags their bodies to the basement.

By the way, did I mention Henry Thomas plays young Norman Bates? Yeah, that kid from E.T. He’s not that bad, but I can’t get over the notion of him in the role. Believe it or not, when I finished watching Psycho IV, I found E.T. on the family channel.

Even with all the issues I’ve already mentioned, the real problem here is Olivia Hussey’s portrayal of Mother in the flashbacks. Its too out there. I mean, she’s supposed to be a psychotic bitch who abused her son mentally and sexually, but she’s just too horrible. Its painful to watch her performance.

One and a half stuffed birds out of five.